In Michigan, stands of trees are often referred to as woods. As a boy, my family went upstate to the North Woods or across town to Denewith Woods or the Moravian Woods.
Woods are shady places where tall deciduous trees and flowery shrubs grew. There are pines, fir, and spruce trees, but leaf-bearing trees dominate, providing personality and, at times, mystery. The floor of a woods is littered with leaves. There is soft, leafy soil that is loose, dark, damp, and rich.
Itís cool and shady in a woods. Sunlight is filtered by the dense canopy of leaves. The light that passes through frequently creates a glow. In the fall, vibrant summer greens change to bright festive colors and drop off the tree as winter sets in.
Most Western forests consist of conifers, oaks and other hardwoods. Theyíre more open and airy. Many forest trees are taller than trees found in woods. Some leafy forest trees like the bay, myrtle and some oaks keep their leaves throughout the year.
Woods have paths that lead to deep, dark places. There are ferns, ivies, and mosses, and swampy, boggy places in and near woods. You can find fireflies, snapping turtles, and Dutchmanís Pipes. At twilight, glowing eyes of unknown creatures seem to stare out from between the trees. All of the great fairy tales took place in woods. Woods are places to write poetry.
Forests invite and welcome hikers, but hikers generally walk through them. Woods beckon hikers to walk into them.
Here are a few photos from last summerís walks in the north woods.